Gators, Bruins Have a Lot in Common

The Gator baseball team takes on UCLA tonight in the first day of the College World Series. It'll be a matchup of two teams that have a great deal in common and not just their virtually identical records. Florida (47-15) and UCLA (48-14) are both teams that got to Omaha primarily thanks to a strong pitching staff.

Each staff features an outstanding rotation of starters with a solid bullpen and superb closer.

As a staff, UCLA has a team ERA of 2.97, and what stands out more than anything else is how many guys they strike out. The Bruins strike out more than a batter an inning (1.13), which is remarkable for an entire staff. The starters all have outstanding numbers. Rob Rasmussen (11-2, 2.73) pitched great games in the Regional and Super Regional, while 2008 Yankees first round selection Gerrit Cole (10-3, 3.25) started the first game of each post-season round. Add in Trevor Bauer (10-3, 3.02) and you have three guys with double digit wins and triple digit strikeouts.

Then you have to consider versatile Garett Claypool (8-3, 2.02) who has started 12 games and relieved in eight others. The closer, Dan Klein (6-0, 1.93, 9 saves) has had a year similar to the Gators' closer Kevin Chapman.

Offensively, UCLA doesn't scare you, but they're definitely good. However they won't be as good as usual after losing second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla to a broken wrist suffered in the dog pile celebration after winning the Super Regional. Rahmatulla (.328, 7, 45) is UCLA's best all around offensive player. He leads the team in runs (52), hits (76) and total bases (118). He is one of five Bruins who have hit seven of eight HR, is tied for tops on the team with 27 extra base hits and is second in stolen bases (13). He also hit a HR to keep the Bruins in the Super Regional when Fullerton State was just one out from winning it. His absence leaves a pretty big hole in the lineup.

First baseman Dean Espy (.353, 8, 48) is UCLA's leading hitter and RBI man. Centerfielder Beau Amaral (.352) and Justin Uribe (.329) hit for high averages while shortstop Nike Gallego (26-27 SB) is a threat on the bases.

UCLA also gets power production from third baseman Cody Regis (.317, 8, 42) and catcher Steve Rodriguez (.255, 8, 35). Overall UCLA has a .307 team batting average with 61 HR and 97 SB. Florida's numbers are similar (.300, 81, 92 SB).

UCLA may be a bit more consistent up and down the lineup, but the Bruins don't have a trio to match Florida's big three bats. Matt den Dekker (.358, 13, 49), Preston Tucker (.339, 11, 46) and Austin Maddox (.333, 17, 71) are all more dangerous individual threats.

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Florida's pitchers don't have the big strikeout totals that UCLA can boast of, but the Gators are more than satisfied with the job they've done. Sophomore lefthander Alex Panteliodis (11-2, 3.26) has been outstanding throughout the season. Freshman righty Hudson Randall (8-3, 2.95) has been a very good No. 2 man. When the Gators need a third pitcher another freshman, lefty Brian Johnson (6-2, 3.97) will get the call.

Senior Jeff Barfield (4-0, 3.31) has emerged as a top flight set up man for closer Kevin Chapman (3-0, 1.48, 11 saves).

The thing that sets Florida's pitching apart is the control throughout the staff. Florida walks just 2.1 batters per game, which is a walk a game better than UCLA.

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Senior centerfielder Matt den Dekker has put himself in the top ten in several career categories for the Gators. He is sixth in hits (261), fourth in runs (219), seventh in HR (33), sixth (tie) in RBI (159) and fifth (tie) in stolen bases.

Mark Ellis (36 HR, 56 SB) are the only players in school history to hit more than 30 HR and steal more than 50 bases.

Austin Maddox (17 HR) needs one HR to move into a tie for the 9th best single-season total in school history. His 71 RBI is the eighth best for a UF hitter.

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The Gators and Bruins meet up at 7:00. It'll be the second game of the CWS. Saturday afternoon at 2:00 Florida State will take on TCU. The Gators will face either the Seminoles of Horned Frogs on Monday. That game will be at 7:00 if the Gators beat UCLA. It'll be a 2:00 elimination game if they don't.


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